How To Shift Mountain Bike Gears?

Mountain bikes are designed to allow the user to trek through all sorts of terrains. However, the mountain bike is one of the most complicated bike options on the market today. Nowadays, mountain bikes have tons of gears, and understanding how to shift mountain bike gears will allow you to generate more speed and ride with more comfort.

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For most of us, it is second nature shifting mountain bike gears and you just have to get on the bike and upshift as you gain more speed. However, it is not that simple, and you need to understand the timing of shifting the mountain bike gears. In the following article, we will have a deeper look into mountain bike gears and how you should go about shifting them.

Understanding The Gears On A Mountain Bike :

Shift Mountain Bike Gears

Mountain bikes have varying drivetrains and you won’t find many mountain bike brands with the same gear sets. Yes, Shimano and SRAM are the biggest producers of these drivetrains, but the composition of drivetrain can often vary. It is important that you understand each component and where it is commonly used.

• The Setup: The setup on mountain bikes for the gears is pretty simple. You will find two sets of rings in the middle and rear of the bike. The rings in the front are considered to be the major gears and there are generally 3 of these gears. However, the rear can vary depending on the brand and might have up to ten different rings.

These rings are combined with one another to indicate the gear you are currently using. On both handlebars will be shifters, with the left shifter controlling derailleur located at the front of the bike and the right shifter will control the minor gears. It also features a derailleur that will shift the bike gears to different rings.

• Gear Ratio: The bicycle gears ratio is the difference between the largest and the smallest gear. However, there are many increments in between that will indicate how many gears your bike has. As a rule of thumb, it is best to count the rings at the front and rear. You can multiply them to find out how many gears the bike has. 3 x 7 will give you 21-speeds and should give you a decent indication of your gear ratio.

• The Single-Speed Anomaly: We should also mention the single speed bikes. These bikes are often overlooked, but they can also be classified as mountain bikes in rare circumstances. BMX and commuter bikes often have one gear that you will use. No shifters or derailleur need to be taken into account when you are using one of these bikes.

How To Shift Gears On A Mountain Bike:

Mountain Bike Gears

The main reason for this article is to show you how to shift mountain bike gears and make life easier for you as a beginner if you need to shift bicycle gears. In the following section, we will give you a few tips that could help you when choosing the right gear and to have more control over the bike that you are using:

• Starting With A Lower Gear: The mountain bike moves forward with motion and you need to get the bike started. While starting in a higher gear can help you get more speed, it is often not ideal for the hard pedaling that is required. It is best to start with a lower gear and slowly move your way up to a more comfortable gear when your pedalling is faster than the resistance offered.

• Gear Up With Momentum: As you move forward at a faster pace, you will notice that your pedaling becomes easier. The resistance from the gears will not offer you any control over the pedals. This is an ideal time to try some higher gears and improve the tension that is provided by the bike. Aside from speed, it also gives you more control over the pedals.

Keep in mind that when you rely on the brakes, you will notice that the bike will get harder to pedal when you have no forward motion. However, you can simply reduce the tension on your legs by shifting to a lower gear. It is best to find out which gear is the most comfortable for you for your desired cruising speed.

• If You Choose High Gears, You Will Have More Speed: Higher speeds on your drivetrain will give you more power; it works in reverse when compared to motor vehicles. Once you crank up the gears, you have tons more resistance, but the resistance will propel you forward and allow you to generate additional speed that will carry even more momentum as you start climbing or when you are going downhill. However, it is harder to control the mountain bike when you are in a very high gear.

• Avoid Crisscross With The Chain: Once you are in a high gear, it can be very tempting to drop back to a lower gear on both shifters. However, you should gradually lower your speed and try to stay on the same ring with your right shifters. This will keep the chain from having a crisscross, which could force it to snap off the bike or even break.

• Use The Gears To Help You Brake: Much as if you would use the powerful gears on your car to brake, you can use the higher gears to brake the bike when you are at fast speeds. Since it will create more tension and need more power to propel the bike forward, the bike will automatically slow down. However, you should always have full confidence in your ability with any specific gear.


Understanding how to switch gears on a bike can be very helpful to anyone that enjoys cycling and it will make your life much easier as a beginner. You might need to consider buying a good drivetrain to ensure you have value for your money. However, these tips can be used for almost any drivetrain or brand.

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